Educational advertising-ads based on informative text rather than images-is a time-tested favorite of biotechnology, insurance and computer companies. When Atlanta e-benefits company Coalition America needed an ad to boost its already $16.5 million 2000-with a new ad approach, rather than run glitzy image ads, it gave potential customers a crash course in what the company does. "In our industry, there's a lot of value in educating clients," says chairman and CEO Sean Smith, 32, who founded the company with twin brother Scott. Sean had another reason for going educational: He wants to recycle the ads for trade shows and press kits.
The company's in-house ad team devised a half-page magazine ad focusing on cost savings, which will run in national business and trade publications. Will it work? Sean thinks so. "Even if people see our ads, they still need to talk to us," he says. At press time, the ad hadn't run yet, but the company hopes it'll spur inquiries.
How to use education: An effective educational ad focuses on one benefit that separates you from the competition. Patterson suggests asking yourself this: What's the main reason people should read all this information? That should be your ad's central point. Says Patterson, "The public doesn't want to be educated unless there's a clear benefit in it for them."
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.